FishbowlDC Interview: NBC’s Antoine Sanfuentes

It was no shocker when NBC News announced that Antoine Sanfuentes would replace Mark Whitaker as their Washington Bureau Chief.  After all, Sanfuentes was already second in command. Perhaps the most astonishing part of the press release was found in the obligatory biographical information included in all HR announcements.  Surprisingly, Antoine’s career began as an intern for the same newsroom he now leads.  In 1990 he landed a desk assistant gig and within five years made his way to the White House as a senior producer.  Now 21 years after his humble beginnings as a D.A., Sanfuentes has become one of the network’s top executives.

“Everyone respects him because he rose up through the ranks, paid his dues, and understands this bureau and this network instinctively,” explained NBC’s Savannah Guthrie. “For him to become bureau chief made perfect sense – he’s one of us.”

Guthrie describes Antoine as a leader with “razor-sharp competitive instincts” – a view shared by most everyone at the bureau.

“Antoine brings a no-nonsense, ‘make it work’ mentality to the newsroom. He is incredibly knowledgeable, clever and resourceful – the benefit of decades of experience,” said Guthrie.

But it’s more than the network’s on-air talent that feels the love for Sanfuentes.  It’s not unusual to find a D.A. hanging out in his office and he’s been known to keep in touch and offer career advice to former interns, long after they’ve completed their internships.

“Antoine is loyal, passionate and somebody who cares greatly about the future of NBC News in Washington and also the bureau’s employees – from the top talent to the midnight-shift maintenance worker,” said Luke Russert.

Besides the full, professional drum kit that resides in his office, Sanfuentes is the epitome of Washington newsman.

“Antoine’s heart is in the news business but his soul belongs to music. He’s an accomplished rock n’ roll and jazz drummer who may even show you his latest drum solo after a meeting about Capitol Hill coverage plans,” added Russert.

With such glowing endorsements, we couldn’t resist asking Antoine to do the FishbowlDC interview.  Read it after the jump.

What qualities make a good bureau chief? “First and foremost: experience, followed by sound editorial judgment. Next an ability to think instinctively and strategically while promoting top-notched journalism and cutting-edge technology.”

Who is your favorite working (non-NBC) broadcast journo? “Charlie Rose.”

If you weren’t working in media, what would you be doing? “I can’t imagine not being here…I would need a serious adrenaline adjustment. I am an occasional photographer and drummer …that’s my golf game.”

You’ve spent your entire career, from intern to bureau chief, at NBC News. Why? “I have learned everything I know from the ground up. It has been a tremendous privilege to work with the best and brightest at NBC News. To start in Tim Russert’s newsroom and then work alongside Brian Williams, Andrea Mitchell, David Bloom, David Gregory and countless others… how do you beat that for on-the-job training?”

Who would you cast to play “Antoine Sanfuentes” in a feature film? “If we are doing a modern day version of the Gene Krupa Story, naturally Max Weinberg.”

What word or phrase do you overuse? “What’s your plan B? Actually there is no such thing as overusing it.”

What’s your guilty pleasure television show? “Jimmy Fallon.”

What was the most embarrassing moment or event in your career? “Does falling out of a Satellite truck qualify? It hurt.”

Taegan Goddard’s questions for you: If you could have any superpower, what would it be? “The power to eradicate selfishness.”

Finally, please come up for a question for our next FishbowlDC interviewee: “What really matters?”